What is Pandemic Fatigue and Why it Matters


Though the Presidential election and Halloween are occupying the minds of Americans across the country, another issue that is quickly taking root is Pandemic Fatigue. Put simply, we have been battling COVID-19 for the better part of 8 months now, and sometimes it feels like our efforts are futile. Frontline workers are exhausted, business owners are impatient, and parents are increasingly worried about their kids and the future. On a personal level, I struggle to write yet another coronavirus-related blog, because a part of me wants to distract from the global pandemic, rather than feed into it. But this is a growing problem in cities and states across the U.S., and it is one that needs addressing.

The Big Picture

Bottom line, this is a serious issue, and it’s not an isolated one. Stateside, we surpassed 8 million known cases recently, and reported more than 70,000 new infections on Friday — the most in a single day since July (source: New York Times). In fact, no fewer than 18 states added more new coronavirus infections in the seven-day-stretch ending on Friday, October 16th than any other week in the pandemic. The problem is not unique to this side of the pond either. Cases are on the rise and hospitalization are up in Europe too. Britain has imposed new restrictions, France placed cities on maximum alert, and Germany & Italy set records for the most new daily cases. The Czech Republic may be the most dire of them all, where leaders are declaring their system in danger of collapsing as hospitals are overwhelmed and the death toll mounts.

The Reality of Fatigue

Unfortunately, the fatigue of the pandemic has caused some to risk the dangers of the virus, a stark contrast from the hope that appeared to pervade American homes back in March and April. The sense now has shifted, and what was once fear is now fatigue — people simply want this pandemic to be over. Alcohol sales have matched the despair felt across the nation; Nielsen reported sales in stores are up 23% during the pandemic. That figure illustrates the growing anxiety coupled with fewer drinks sold at restaurants and bars.

Hope for the Future

On the sliding scale of optimism, I would rank myself very high — almost to a fault. Regarding the pandemic, I do feel some hope because of the news about a vaccine (or two, or three), coming down the pipeline. Health officials are looking at December, January at the latest, and though people will be reluctant at first, the vaccine will help us return to a modicum of normalcy. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco, said the US could have multiple vaccines by the year’s end. I am fully aware of the hesitancy of many Americans to take a vaccine, but I’m confident that once they see that a vaccine works and contains no adverse side effects? I believe we will be on our way to some semblance of normal. Additionally, though the holiday season will feel markedly different than other years, I believe families and friends coming together, even in smaller groups will bolster morale and give us the push we need to reach the safe haven of the vaccine stage, a curb to the pandemic that we’ve all been longing for.

I believe if we can hold on for a couple more months we will begin to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.